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Charitable Giving: How to Give Back Without Forgetting Your Family

Many people want to support their favorite charities after death by including charitable donations in their estate plans. For many, however, this goal is at odds with the goal of making sure that family members are provided for. If you are in the process of drafting a will or trust and want to support one or more charities while also providing for your family, consider the following types of bequests:

  1. General Bequests
    A general bequest is a gift of a certain percent of your estate. You can specify that the bequest should be made after taxes and debts of the estate have been paid. The following language is an example of a general bequest in a will or trust:

“I give, devise, and bequeath 5% of my Estate, after all taxes and debts have been satisfied, to NAME OF CHARITY, a STATE nonprofit corporation, located in CITY, STATE, COUNTRY.”

  1. Specific Bequests
    A specific bequest is an outright gift of a specific item or sum of money to a charity to either be used or sold by the organization. It is important that the item can be easily identified from all the other property in the estate. For example:

 “I give, devise, and bequeath my four foot bronze statue of a lion and lioness to the San Diego Zoo, a California nonprofit corporation, located in San Diego, CA.”

  1. Residual Bequests

A residual bequest bequeaths the remainder of your estate to a charity of your choosing only after other gifts of money or property have been made to beneficiaries named in your will or trust. For example:

“I give, devise, and bequeath all the rest, residue, and remainder of my property, real and personal to NAME OF CHARITY, a STATE nonprofit corporation, located in CITY, STATE, to be paid only after all personal bequests have been made.”

  1. Contingent Bequests

A contingent gift is made on the condition of a certain event that might or might not happen. A contingent bequest is specific and fails if the condition is not made. For example, if you want to leave money to the Humane Society but think your wife will need all the money in the estate, you could use a contingent bequest to take effect only if your wife predeceases you: For example:

In the event my wife should die prior to the distribution of my estate then, and in that event, the undistributed corpus of my estate shall be distributed to MY FAVORITE CHARITY, a NON-PROFIT CORPORATION, located in CITY, STATE.


“I give, devise, and bequeath twenty percent (20%) of my estate to, NAME OF CHARITY, a STATE nonprofit corporation, located in CITY, STATE, to be paid only if they continue to operate as a homeless shelter for women recovering from drug abuse.”

  1. A Bequest Following Income

This type of gift provides regular income from a trust to one or more beneficiaries for a limited time, often a beneficiary’s specific birthday. After the specified time has passed, all or a percentage of the remaining amount can go to charity. The following sample language illustrates how a bequest following income to your favorite charity might be phrased in your will or trust:

“The Trustee shall hold the corpus of my Trust until my youngest living grandchild reaches the age of eighteen, at which time my Trustee shall then distribute fifty percent (50%) of my estate to my grandchildren in equal shares, twenty-five percent to my children in equal shares, and twenty-five percent (25%) to MY FAVORITE CHARITY, a STATE nonprofit corporation, located in CITY, STATE.”

The above are just a few ways to make charitable giving part of your legacy. If you are considering including a charitable organization in your estate plans, contact our office today.

2890 N. Main Street, Suite 206
Walnut Creek, CA 94597


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